Pensacola News Journal by Jim Little
June 1, 2020
Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill has come forward as the person who released transcripts of past attorney-client sessions of the County Commission related to sewer system on Innerarity Island.
Last week, Commissioner Jeff Bergosh called for an ethics investigation into who leaked the documents after he said he had received information that a commissioner had distributed the documents.
Underhill said he couldn’t “leak” the documents because he did not believe it was legal to keep them confidential and believed he had a duty to release them.
“It is not possible to ‘leak’ a document that is not protected by confidentiality,” Underhill said in a written statement to multiple media outlets this week. “The documents I released are subject to the sunshine laws and therefore were released in accordance with my duties as a custodian of public records.”
County spokeswoman Laura Coale said in a statement to the News Journal that because the commissioner disclosed that he provided the meeting transcripts a county investigation is no longer needed to find out how the documents were released.
Coale also said that according to County Attorney Alison Rogers the county has no disciplinary authority over a county commissioner, and only the governor, state commission on ethics or prosecutor would have “something akin to disciplinary authority over an elected commissioner.”
The News Journal requested the transcripts from the county, which argued they are not public until the litigation over the Innerarity Island sewer issue is complete.